By Emma Wu
Teenagers are well known for not getting enough sleep. Maybe you are one of them. However, an insufficient amount of sleep, especially over a prolonged period of time, is not healthy for the growing mind. During adolescent years, the brain is undergoing major development in order to prepare teenagers for adulthood. However, despite the need for sleep to assist the developing brain, many teenagers do not get a sufficient amount of sleep, which in turn affects the development of the brain, along with affecting mood and behavior in teenagers.
The average adolescent only gets about 7 to 7 ½ hours of sleep each night. However, the needed amount of sleep for maximum brain development and health is actually 9 to 9 ½ hours. Due to extracurricular activities, homework, and socializing, many teenagers end up sleeping much later at night and waking up later in the morning. As a result, many teenagers are sleep deprived. This sleep deprivation has a direct link to affecting the teenager’s mood, behavior, and cognitive behavior.
There are several reasons teenagers are sleep-deprived. During puberty, there is a shift in the adolescent’s internal clock. This biological shift offsets the adolescent sleeping schedule by about 2 hours. As such, causing a teenager who was maybe used to falling asleep at 10, unable to fall asleep until around 12. This also means that the teenager wakes up later in the morning by the same margin of about 2 hours. Another reason for sleep deprivation is the early start times for high schools. Many high schools have a starting time of about 7:00 AM, forcing many kids to wake up as early as 5:00 in order to get ready for school. Another reason is the use of electronic devices during late-night hours. Many teenagers chat on multiple social media platforms, and this screen time also causes adolescents to stay up late, thus reducing sleep times. Among these many reasons about why teenagers get insufficient amounts of sleep, there are a number of problems that are associated with inadequate amounts of sleep.
One problem that arises from a lack of sleep is a change in mood. Adolescents that are sleep deprived tend to be more easily irritated and show increased anger along with a lower tolerance of frustration. Along with this change in mood, teenagers that are sleep deprived also tend to exhibit a decreasing ability in cognitive function. Reasons for these two behavioral changes are typically in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that is the emotional and thinking control center of the brain, is one of the last areas of the brain to develop. However, this development does not end until a person is about in their late 20’s. This area is particularly sensitive to sleep deprivation, however, and since many teenagers do not get enough sleep, this causes a stunt in the development of their ability to integrate cognitive abilities with emotions and motives.
Methods of helping adolescents get more sleep include limiting the amount of screen time one spends before going to bed. Light cues tend to send signal to the brain to stay awake longer, thus working against the need to go to bed. Another way to get more sleep is by settling into a good routine; the more a teenager can go to bed on time, the easier it will be to follow this good sleep schedule, thus improving one’s ability to turn their biological shift’s internal clock. Another method is to cut off on drinking fluids that contain caffeine. Caffeine has chemicals in it that will disrupt the binding of chemicals to receptors that should make one sleepy. It is suggested to stop drinking items with caffeine in it when one’s bedtime is within four hours. These are just a few methods for helping one get more sleep.
It is essential that one gets a sufficient amount of sleep, especially during adolescent years, so as not to stunt the development of the brain. Not only that, but getting enough sleep helps teenagers with their daily routine without the added stress of mood and behavioral changes. So, try your best to get that healthy 9 hours of sleep!